Trove co-founders Michael Pao and Jon Perlow Trove
Uber transformed the taxi industry by making it easy to hail a ride with the touch of a button.
Now, an early Uber employee wants to apply the same idea of making it more convenient and affordable to a market that is typically neither: self-storage.
On Tuesday, Michael Pao is launching Trove along with his cofounder Jon Perlow, a former high-ranking Facebook engineer.
Trove wants to redefine what “convenience” means when it comes to self-storage, Pao told Business Insider during an interview at its San Francisco headquarters.
Today, the company is officially launching out of stealth with a different way to store items than renting a unit and moving items yourself.
Most people look for a self-storage unit that’s located near their work or home so they can easily pick-up and drop things off as needed. Yet, the main point of self-storage is that you end up moving and storing everything yourself — a laborious process that Trove wants to eliminate. It’s a problem that the company has been working in stealth for nearly a year after Business Insider broke the news about its $8 million funding raised from Greylock.
“When you’re storing things, you tend to be going through some life transition and you’re stressed,” Perlow said. “So the last thing you want to do when you’re stressed is to have to go connect all the dots and rent a storage unit and then find a haul and then beg you friends to help you. We thought we could do a lot better.”
Trove wants to challenge that “convenience” means a storage place located close to your house.
“That’s one way to think about it, going over to your unit and rolling it up and getting it yourself,” Pao said. “A different way to think about convenience is that the items are at your doorstep when you need them. It’s a different solution to the same challenge and problem that the customer is asking you to solve.”
Instead, the startup wants to save you the headache of moving everything on your own. As part of its service, the company contracts out to professional movers who will wrap up couches, protect breakable china, and make sure lamp shades aren’t punctured in the storage process.
Trove’s version of a modern storage unit: online only. Trove
The items are then photographed and catalogued in Trove’s app so you can see just what was stored and request back specific items as they’re needed. All of the items are then stored by the moving company, which has its own storage facilities, meaning Trove gets to spare the expense of building new storage units in crowded cities.
“One of the things you notice when you walk around San Francisco is that there are self-storage facilities all over the city,” Perlow said. “…It doesn’t make sense to me or anyone really why we’re storing items that we rarely access on most expensive property on the planet.”
As a result, Trove takes advantage of cheaper real estate outside the cities and working with the moving companies that have extra storage space on their properties. Trove’s customers are only charged for the space they use, and whenever they need an item back, they can request it straight from the app and have it delivered within a few days. The minimum is $100 per month, which includes the professional packing and pickup. From there, each return of an item costs as much time as it takes the movers to unload, up to $65 an hour per mover.
The storage market is already a $30 billion dollar business with 11 million households renting a storage unit. While Trove is taking a bet that self-storage doesn’t need to be fully self-involved, it’s not the only company that’s trying to bring self-storage into the digital era and take on long-time challengers.
“The on-demand storage space is one area we have been watching and where companies are still showing strength despite slack in the on-demand space overall (with Q1’17 sinking to deal and dollar funding levels previously seen in the same quarter three years previously),” said Marcelo Ballvé, research director at CB Insights.
Startups like Clutter and MakeSpace are both trying to solve the same problem by offering professional pick-up and deliveries — and both are well-funded competition ahead of Trove. While the new startup has raised $8 million from Greylock, Clutter has raised over $32 million from Sequoia and MakeSpace has taken in over $56 million, most recently from 8VC.
“When Sequoia invested in Clutter out of both their Venture and Growth funds, we expected competition to follow,” said Clutter cofounder Ari Mir. “Our job is not to focus on competition but to take that ringing endorsement and continue to build a stellar team obsessed with delighting customers.”
Yet, all of the startups in the “Uber for storage” space face the same challenge: Changing a customer’s definition of what’s “convenient” for them during a period of high stress and lure them away from the traditional storage unit.
“At the end of the day, storage is a big business. For us, it’s not about trying to serve everybody right away,” Pao said. “It’s about serving the customers we believe who have the biggest pain point today. And those customers are the ones that are worried about renting a truck, hiring your friends, boxing everything — just making it dead simple for them.”